Digitalism is a German electro duo, founded in 2004 in Hamburg, consisting of Jens « Jence » Moelle and İsmail « Isi » Tüfekçi. Jens likens Digitalism’s songs to simple chapters in a complex novel about social interaction and attraction, with distorted baselines and thumping rhythms comprising the punctuation.
Digitalism is pioneering the electro-punk and indie dance movements, making appearances at festivals such as Coachella and various clubs worldwide.
Thanks to Digitalism
Lucius and Kitsuné
We met in a record shop in Hamburg around 2000, where Jence was working and Isi was a frequent customer. It was a hangout for us in the afternoons – discovering new music and practicing DJing on the shop Technics and PA. We then started DJing gigs together and the rest came automatically. We needed a name for the flyers and CDR edits that we made, and we stuck to it.
What about the name?
We were huge fans of the Africanism 12″ series on Yellow Recordings. Our first productions, edits we made of other tracks, were made completely in the living room on an old PC… And when we had to decide on something to write on CDRs, the word « Digitalism » came up and somehow stuck with us. At the end, we worked very digitally.
What is your song-writing process? Do you build the songs chords or melodies, or do you write your beats first?
It always depends. But usually what you start with has the bigger emphasis, so when you start with beats first, then everything else you write around it just kind of supports it. That’s at least how we see it.
What is the rest of collaboration process like?
We work pretty Yin and Yang – Jence creates a lot of material that we sort and put into shape in the next steps. Isi is like a director in a sense.
How do you decide which songs to remix? Do people approach you with projects, or is it the other way around?
Sometimes people approach you, and sometimes we ask if we can remix someone else’s work. It always depends. Daft Punk and The Presets for instance asked us to remix their music, whereas we asked The Rapture if we could get our hands on « Sail Away » a few years ago. At the end, what counts is that we love the music that we remix.
How do you know when a song is finished? There’s an expression in writing that says “you publish a rough draft.” Is making music like that?
You have to learn to let loose. You feel like a song is probably never finished, more so in the club world, as you could change arrangements and lengths of parts forever.. Or make yet another remix of it. We kind of compensated for this problem back then by releasing about ten remixes for each of our songs. It’s like continuing working on them, without telling people.
What has the current tour been like? What has been the best part so far?
We just finished a US DJ tour where we played small intimate clubs, and it turned out to be great. We also did a twice a month night in the middle of the week in LA which was fun; we got to play a lot of different music and invite friends to play with us. It felt like turning up at your local venue around the corner to spin some tunes, just like back in the day when we started.
Do you choose a setlist before you go out, or do decide the songs on the fly?
The only times we choose set lists is when we play live.
What’s your live set-up like?
Our last live tour is finished — we’re not sure how we’ll do the next incarnation of it yet.
Do you notice a difference in European crowds compared to America crowds?
It depends on where you play. Sometimes when you play in the US, people don’t know you yet, because they only started getting into electronic music recently, and we’ve been around for a decade. But on the other hand, they’re super excited for it, because everything is new. It feels like the ‘New Rave’ era around 2007 sometimes. But through the internet, the continents are linking up more and more now.
Do you feel like a tourist when you’re on the road?
We feel at home on the road.
What about the role of music blogs? What effect have they had on your career?
We have to thank the blog world for their support throughout the years. Digitalism is partly built with the support of the online community, which only came up around the time we released our first records in 2005.
There was a time when blogs would be the 21st century record shops where you get music for free, now it’s gone back to how it started: Music journalism. Some became even bigger than old fashioned print mags. And if you look at it – even those now turn into online blogs. Blogs everywhere!
With what words would you like this interview to end?
Thank you very much.